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West Coast composer Lou Harrison’s 100th birthday party has been a yearlong, global affair. The Harrison House in Joshua Tree, California live streamed a 24-hour celebration, Bill Alves and Brett Campbell published a sweeping new biography, and renowned musicians have played tribute concerts from New York City to San Francisco. Harrison passed away in 2003 at age 85, but his influence as a composer, instrument builder, environmentalist, pacifist and gay rights activist is as resonant as ever.
This Saturday, the party rolls into Santa Fe at an event presented by Albuquerque percussion ensemble Gamelan Encantada and LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit Equality NM. In Honor of Lou features a concert of Harrison’s works for gamelan instruments, along with a screening of the biographical film Lou Harrison: Cherish, Conserve, Consider, Create. The event is Saturday, December 2 from 4 to 6 pm at form & concept, with a $15 to $25 suggested donation. All proceeds from the event will benefit Equality NM.
“Lou was at the forefront of so many progressive causes, socially, culturally and politically,” says Jenny DeBouzek, director of Gamelan Encantada. “By partnering with Equality NM, we’re weaving together two of his lifelong passions at this gathering: music and LGBTQ activism.” Founded in 1991, Gamelan Encantada is a contemporary percussion ensemble with roots in the gong/metallophone orchestras of Southeast Asia, specifically those of Central Java in Indonesia. DeBouzek, who has taught gamelan technique, theory and composition at Santa Fe University of Art and Design for the past decade, knew Harrison in the 1980’s when she was a member of several new music groups in Berkeley. She also performed in and worked on the film that will be screened at the event.
Harrison was a contemporary and colleague of such notables as John Cage, Henry Cowell, Harry Partch, Alan Hovaness and Virgil Thomson. He was instrumental in fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation the music of all cultures, especially those of the Middle East, China and Southeast Asia. He was also an outspoken advocate for gay rights, an ardent pacifist and environmentalist, and a beloved teacher and friend to many young musicians and composers.
Together with his life partner Bill Colvig, Harrison was also responsible for building a number of innovative instruments, as well as reviving an interest in ancient and unusual tuning systems. While teaching at various colleges in Northern California, he studied traditional gamelan in Berkeley with Javanese master K.R.T. Wasitodipuro and also worked with gamelan composer and teacher Jody Diamond, and it was this influence that inspired him to create some of the works that will be performed at In Honor of Lou.
“Nearly 15 years after Harrison’s death, he’s still inspiring the world to push the envelope,” says Frank Rose, form & concept Gallery Director. “We felt an instant connection with his transdisciplinary approach to everything he accomplished. The world may have changed since his death, but there’s enduring wisdom to the way he approached humanity’s most profound questions and challenges.”
Equality NM’s ethos is closely aligned with Harrison’s. The nonprofit organization envisions a world in which oppression is obsolete and all aspects of identity are honored. EQNM works to create a reality of equity, full access, and sustainable wellness for members of the LGBTQ community in New Mexico. Initiatives include outreach and education, family law resource center, policy advocacy at both state and local levels, and partnering with the business community and with other nonprofits to ensure fairness and equality for all New Mexicans.
Admission is $15 ($25 for preferred seating for the film screening). Tickets are also available at the door (credit card only).